Food Driven or Love Driven?

I want to start by saying that I am not a therapist, but only someone who has struggled with an eating disorder. For anyone who has a disorder, it is important to see a knowledgable therapist (as I have also done). My eating disorder may not be as extreme as some, and yet it has allowed me to have compassion for others going through this. I believe we are all individuals and our patterns are unique. Yet, by sharing our experiences, we can find some comfort and connection.

So, first I want to explain how my unique disorder acts. I’m not proud…but here it is. I do have feelings of shame in my body, especially in my stomach and thighs. As many times as I may send loving thoughts to these areas, self-consciousness and shame seem to be lodged there.

Though I know in my mind that I still wish to gain a few pounds, I do like the feeling of being thin. I seem to feel “safer” and more comfortable and happy with myself when I’m thinner. When my pattern is in action, however, and I lose weight, at some point it feels awful because I get more anxious and low energy, and I don’t like the way I look when I’m too skinny either. (Can’t win! :0 )

Having said that, though ~ I actually love to eat. This may be different from some others with a restrictive pattern. I enjoy food. Another aspect that may be different is that I like the feeling of being hungry. I would even say I crave it or am addicted to it, so this is part of the disorder. I like being hungry because it makes me feel lighter than being full, and also because it means I can look forward to eating again! Hmmm~

So ~ when I am eating a meal, I have this restrictive tendency that stops me at a certain point, and it is often rationalized as – “I need to stop now so I’ll be hungry for the next meal or snack.”

I eat small meals often, which many say is healthy, and I eat a variety of healthful foods, and I exercise moderately. However, as my amounts tend to fall a bit short due to the pattern, I tend to continually be slowly losing weight.

Eating less is also my fall back pattern ~ for instance, if I’m under stress, I eat less. If I’m not feeling well physically, I eat less. If I hear about a new healthful food plan, or a food to avoid, I often try it, and end up eating less. Then, I inevitably lose weight, and the pattern kicks in more. It is always difficult to gain the weight back.

This is how I came to have thinning bones and got down to around 95 lbs at one point, which is certainly in the anorexic category for a 5’5” frame.

With the help of a nutritionist who specializes in ED, and a couple of supportive friends, I gained 7 lbs or so. I still wanted to gain a few more as well as truly overcome the pattern so I went to see an ED therapist. When he heard how much I had recovered without a therapist he was amazed. He said “That never happens!”

At one point in our therapy, he was talking about goals for my weight. He said “In one sense, it’s not about the numbers, but if you’re sitting in your chair, it is about the numbers.” In other words, with anorexia, it is critical to actually keep your weight up to a certain level in order to recover.

I said “Well, I understand that, but I just want to be healthy!” He said these very important words: “The most important thing is to not be food driven. Can you actually imagine what it would be like to not think much about food at all? Just eat what you want and not obsess on it?” I thought – Wow. Hard to imagine. He said “Maybe your life could be driven by something else instead? Perhaps Love? Or faith, or charity?”

I was stunned. I thought my values revolved around living in a loving way, and perhaps I did live that way to an extent. But how could I when my mind was so preoccupied with food? Yes, I want to live a love-driven life.

Discovering how to do that is my unfolding journey, and will be the focus of my next blog.

Running Late…My House Burned Down ~

The title is a line I texted in jest to my daughter several months back – milking the dramatic fact that my husband and I did actually lose our home in a recent wildfire. Back story first…

A few years ago, a friend I hadn’t seen for a while emailed me to say: “When I saw you the other day, you had lost so much weight that I’m worried you aren’t eating enough.” People had been telling me for a while that I was too skinny, but I had mostly brushed it off. I thought they didn’t really understand my situation, or I didn’t appreciate the judging way they made comments.

But I could tell this friend really cared, and I was able to hear her concern. This prompted me to research the issue, and I resonated with much that I read about anorexia. I began seeking support and working towards recovery. I found it to be a slow process; tricky and easy to slip up.

Along the way, with support, I was able to heal some deep pain and sadness, gain much self-awareness, and learn coping skills and new strategies. I slowly put on a little weight, and  declared myself “well”. Then my house burned down! This was of course a dramatic life event. I call it a “profound loss” because much meaning came out of it. People were so kind, and gave us many things, including their time, care and concern, and material items. Yet it has been a stressful year, with almost everything in our life changing at once. And often in times of stress we revert back to familiar patterns.

I was not back to square one, yet my issues did “flare” for a while. I lost weight, and as anyone who’s been through this knows, it is a difficult climb back up.                               .sky the night of fire

So, I went back to my therapist for a bit, and started a food journal and a feelings journal again. I talked with close friends who understood. And so I am recovering again.

Then the idea came to me to write this blog about my experiences. I sense that it is a part of my own strengthening to share my journey. I acknowledge myself for taking steps towards recovery – I find it is an active process! For me it is important to recognize my issues, and actively focus on healing.

Once I started, support from others truly helped. For instance, a dear friend taught me a kind of healing meditation. One day, while meditating, I got an insight ~ from deep within my belly and soul. I felt the pain of myself as a young girl, curled up, and feeling that I was not worthy and not seen as lovable by my father. My tears released some of the grief.

Then I quickly realized that I had transferred some of that inner hurt to my relationship with my husband. I subconsciously thought that if I gained weight he wouldn’t love me. (I even thought he judged me whenever we ate.) In my mind, I knew he loved me, but I needed to share this insight with him to help me get past it. A few days later I told him about my experience, and he reassured me he was not thinking or feeling anything like this! It didn’t end the disorder for me, but it did allow me feel freer with him, and helped me see that recovery was now completely in my own hands. I could make the choices and do the work to heal.

Please feel free to leave a comment. I would love to read it and respond. If I can help someone else, it will deepen the good that has come out of my journey.

 

 

Adventures in Wholeness

I am in recovery from an eating disorder, specifically anorexia, with shades of orthorexia (obsession with healthy foods).  I want to share my adventure. Dealing with an eating disorder can be a tricky road, with plenty of slippery slopes. It has helped me so much when caring people have listened or offered counsel. I wish to do the same for others. If my words resonate with someone, I will be grateful.

Why “adventure”? It is a wild journey! Rough terrain, challenges, insights, discoveries, new vistas, and deep meaning along the way. Why “wholeness”? I need to pay some attention to the “dysfunctional patterns”, yet I want to live from my wholeness. I am NOT the disorder!

It is important to notice what is happening (rather than deny!) and feel my pain and discomfort. Yet, at my core, I am whole. My intuition, my heart and soul know what I need if I gently tune in and listen.

So, here is what it feels like when I’m stuck in the disordered pattern: The truth is, it feels good (for a while) because when I eat less (slightly under-eat), I feel lighter, and somehow safer. Yet, as I continue that for a while and lose weight, then I can feel it’s not good for me.  I get overly tired, experience heart palpitations and other symptoms, including anxiety. And I don’t like being too skinny anymore. I am in my early 50’s, and I have some thinning of the bones and other health issues, and I want to be stronger! I want to have some roundness and softness to my body and to be comfortable with that.

So, this disorder is elusive, and at times I can deceive myself and not realize I’m in the pattern. For one thing, my disorder is not severe (I have never been hospitalized) and being thin is very reinforced in our society. So most people would not think I have a problem.

It takes becoming uncomfortable with health issues to wake up (and sometimes caring others telling me I am TOO thin and they are worried!) Then, I come to my senses and decide to put on weight. But when it comes to this point, it’s really difficult to try to gain. Since I’ve been in the pattern for so long, if I eat more than I’m used to, I feel anxious and self-conscious. My digestion gets thrown way out of balance, and it all ends up backfiring, as I don’t feel like eating much at all.

I know how hard it is to recover, and yet also that it is POSSIBLE. Fortunately, I know I need support – anorexia is a tough nut to crack and it is nearly impossible to recover without assistance.  I  was wise and willing enough to see a therapist and a nutritionist, and I found supportive friends to talk with. This has all helped tremendously. The next step for me now is to share my journey.

To begin ~ I want to tell about some practices that have worked for me:

*Listening to my body, and following my intuition. Waiting until I’m hungry, (but not starving!) tuning in to what my body wants, sitting down, and enjoying a lovely meal. It is best to stop when I’m satisfied, and turn my focus to something else until next time to eat. (Read: try not to obsess about food continuously! 🙂 Focusing on other activities helps.)

*B.E.S.T. Each time before eating, I tune in to these words:

Breathe (I envision my mom, who had a sense of being comfortable in her own body. I let the breath fill my stomach and affirm that it’s all fine.)

Embody (I tend to have an automatic sense of discomfort and dislike for certain areas of my body such as my stomach and thighs. A dear friend and meditation teacher suggested that I focus my attention on the sensation in other areas of my body, such as feeling the back of my legs on the chair. This helps me settle into being comfortably “in my body”).

Soften (Allow my whole body to soften and relax).

Thankful (I am thankful for life and for this food).

Tuning in to these thoughts helps me be present and more able to let go of the patterns and enjoy and appreciate my food as well as the people I may be sharing with.

My intention is to publish thoughts weekly on this site. I would love to hear your responses.

Take good care ~